This past week we hosted a good friend from Michigan who made his first trip to California. Unlike other visitors we’ve had, Tom didn’t want to do the touristy stuff. Instead he wanted to taste new and different kinds of food. We literally spent five days eating our way through Southern California.
In a small taco stand in downtown LA, the song “What if a God were one of us?” came on the radio. As a joke, I sang, “What if God ATE one of us? Just swooped in and swallowed us?” It was the perfect soundtrack to our culinary adventure.
But lets give that some thought. “What if God ate one of us?” Would God like how we taste? Would he leave stuffed and satisfied? And what does it take fill God up anyway? Love? Kindness? Generosity? Hospitality? These are all good things but even an atheist can be hospitable and kind. I suspect God needs something meatier to gnaw on, don’t you?
As we continue our Lenten series on Hope and Resurrection, there’s a character in the Bible who gives us some food for thought. His name is Abram, you might know him by his circumcise name Abraham – the patriarch of Israel and the covenant God made with humanity. His story takes up 12 chapters in Genesis alone, so…he’s an important guy to know.
Read Genesis 15:1-6
God reckoned Abraham as righteous. That’s to say Abraham walked right with God. And God was satisfied. So, it seems to me that God has an appetite for righteousness.
Are you righteous? How do we know? What does righteousness look like?
He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Maybe it means being perfectly good all the time? Never ceasing to do the right thing. Abraham was a good and just person, so much so God sends Melchizedek to blesses Abraham. But to be honest, Abraham was far from perfect. He was human like you and me. Although, there were a few times when his mistakes almost put God’s covenant in jeopardy.
There were also times when Abraham questioned and challenged God whose promise seemed a bit too good to be true. Although he was no saint, God reckoned Abraham righteous. Why? Simply because Abraham trusted what God said and lived his life accordingly. No matter how messy his life got or how impossible things seemed be, Abraham held onto the hope of God’s word. And as such, God didn’t let him down.
There are many different ways we hold on to hope. My kids hope to pass a test. My friend hopes to get a job. And I hope more people will support our ministry. But as I have learned in life, whenever I put my hope in material things or in people, I expect to be disappointed because whether it’s intentional or unintentional, these things will let us down. Just as there will always be finite disappointment, we also have infinite hope in the One who will never let us down.
Read Romans 4:18-22
Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.
"Hoping against hope, Abraham believed.” This tells me that our righteousness is tied to what we believe. And not just any belief either. I can believe my kids when they say they did their homework, but it doesn’t mean they did it. I can believe my wife when she says she’s ready to go, but it doesn’t mean I won’t still be waiting another half hour to leave. I can believe my eyes see words on a page, but to believe that those words mean something to the way I live my life takes having faith in those words.
Abraham believed the words God said to him, and his faith was made stronger because of it. This is true for us as well.
With the looming threat of climate change, the current state of world politics, or a schizophrenic economy it’s easy for people feel hopeless. This sense of hopelessness, along with all the hypocrisy and division found in our religious communities, have pushed people to lose faith or stop believing all together.
If you’re feeling like this, you’re not alone. The Bible is filled with people who felt hopeless: Job, Moses, Jonah, Jeremiah, and Elijah - all of these biblical heroes went through a crisis of faith. Imagine being a disciple and witnessing Jesus’ death. How does one recover one’s faith after the rug is pulled out from underneath all you believed in?
They trusted that God’s word is true. The resurrection would be their proof. In all their fears, doubts, and anxieties the steadfast love of God remained. God's love came to be with us in the flesh, to strengthen our hope and faith us no matter where we are in our journey.
Read Romans 4:23-5:2
Whenever I feel hopeless, I can look at the cross of Christ and be reminded of the Easter joy that soon followed. In Christ I find my hope, because in him I am assured of God’s love for me. In Christ I know I am not alone, or without hope.
Thanks to Christ, you too are a beloved child of God, sharing in the feast of God’s steadfast love. In Christ, you are made righteous and are called to love like he did; to love God and others; to be a fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to all of creation.
I invite you to not just to walk right with God, but to walk knowing that God is right beside you and all around you. In Christ, God comes to be with us in all our human messiness. But when we walk in his footsteps, we know that we walk right before God.
As you leave here today, remember that God hungers for you – for your righteousness, not your perfection. No matter how badly you’ve mess up, how many times you’ve doubted or questioned God, God has never doubted or given up on you. Therefore, your righteousness will never cease...if only because God's hunger for you never does.